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What is Pilates? Benefits of Pilates.

What is Pilates | Benefits of Pilates | Ana Heart Blog

What is Pilates | Benefits of Pilates


With the aim of strengthening the body in an efficient and even manner, pilates focussed primarily on core strength, allowing one to improve overall fitness levels and general wellbeing. Typically carried out on a mat, Pilates exercises are often simple and easy to pick up, ideal for even complete novices. Certain exercises can involve the use of special equipment, with the Cadillac, Wunda Chair and the Reformer being some of the most common. Using a combination of handles, straps and springs, the equipment is designed to provide both resistance and support to the practitioner.

Created in Germany by a man named Joseph Pilates, the exercise was developed as a way to work both the metal and physical health in unison. Highly influenced by exercise forms such as boxing, gymnastics and even wrestling, the first Pilates studio was opened in New York in 1920, where Joseph taught his method (back then known as Contrology) for several years. In this article, we will explore pilates in more detail, looking into the benefits of the low-intensity exercise, and what to keep in mind when choosing a local class.


Who is Pilates for?

The low-intensity form of exercise is ideal for people of all ages with different levels of fitness, perfect for experienced athletes and novices alike. With special apparatus available to provide support for those with specific needs, the exercise is non-discriminative and can be adapted for those with certain medical needs, or those of older age. As always though, we advise you to seek professional advice from your GP or health professional if you have any concerns, before partaking in any new exercise programme.


Benefits of Pilates

Pilates is believed to boast a wide variety of health benefits to those who practice regularly. it is thought that regular Pilates sessions can improve muscle tone, posture, balance and mobility, in addition to relieving the body of stress and tension. For serious athletes, pilates can be helpful to practice alongside elite training, aiding the development of body strength and flexibility, thus helping to reduce the risk of injury. Below, we explore some of the main benefits of Pilates in more detail.


Mind-Refreshing Workout

By learning how to connect proper breathing techniques with smooth, flowing movement, you quickly become more in tune with both your body and mind. Learning how to control the body’s movement with correct alignment is a skill that will benefit you for the duration of your life, particularly important as you grow older. With pilates sessions, the quality of movement is far valued over the number of repetitions you perform. Learning proper breathing techniques during a class can help to reduce stress, leaving you feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day.


Strengthens the Core

With the ability to strengthen your core, Pilates is ideal for building inner strength within the body. Consisting of the muscles in the centre of the body, including those of the abdomen, improved balance and control of the body can be achieved through various pilates movements.


Increases Flexibility

The majority of traditional workouts are often weight-bearing, thus prone to building bulky muscles susceptible to injury. Pilates encourages improved strength along with muscle elasticity, creating a balance of strength and flexibility to decrease the risk of injury.

While many conventional workouts focus on one muscle group, pilates creates an evenly conditioned body, ideal for preventing injury in sports performance as well as everyday life. Workouts that promote the building of one muscle group can result in muscular imbalance – the leading cause of injury and long-lasting back pain today. With the practice of pilates focussing on the body as a whole, the classes even take into account the hands and feet. The entire body is evenly balanced and conditioned, preventing injury and allowing you to enjoy daily life as you should.


Gentle yet Effective

Often, Pilates exercises are performed in a sitting position, consequently making them low impact and bearing minimal weight. Due to their gentle nature, pilates sessions are commonly used in physical therapy to aid rehabilitation from injury. Pilates is extremely adaptable, enabling modifications to the exercises making them suitable for a range in skill level; this makes the practice suitable for those who are just starting out, in addition to individuals who are more advanced.


Difference between Pilates and Yoga

Although the methods behind each practice are different, both pilates and yoga develop strength, flexibility, balance, posture and deep breathing techniques. While both systems focus on the connection between physical and mental well-being, yoga encourages further relaxation with the process of meditation. Pilates is generally performed with the assistance of apparatus and mats, whereas traditional yoga only requires comfortable yoga clothes. Both exercise forms can provide numerous benefits to your health, but take time to decide which is right for you before attending a local class.


Choosing a Pilates Class

Pilates classes can either be taught in a specialised studio containing apparatus, or in an open space with minimal equipment. As long as you’ve got a supportive yoga mat to work with, sessions can hold an array of benefits. With classes typically lasting 60 minutes, sessions can easily be squeezed into your weekly routine, without having to worry about them taking up too much time. Before deciding on a class, it’s worth choosing whether you’d rather take part in an individual session, or one carried out in a small group; while individual sessions can be pricey, for complete beginners it can be a great introduction to the exercise, allowing the instructor to focus their intention solely on you. If you are interested in a class involving apparatus, the session should ideally be tough on a one-to-one basis; while group apparatus sessions exist, it is advised to acquire some experience on the equipment before joining a group class.


In Summary

Currently, there is no legal requirement to hold a relative qualification to call yourself a pilates teacher. With this in mind, it is important to consider the experience and quality of their training before choosing a pilates instructor. It can be sensible to decide on a teacher based on a recommendation from others, combined with the reassurance that the instructor has been teaching for several months, if not years. As with any new form of exercise, if you have any health conditions or existing injuries, it is advised to get the advice from a certified health practitioner or your local GP to avoid further injury.



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